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James  Forman Jr.

James Forman Jr.

Professor of Law at Yale Law School

Biography

James Forman, Jr. graduated from Roosevelt High School in Atlanta, Brown University, and Yale Law School. He worked as a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented juveniles and adults in felony and misdemeanor cases. Read More >

Professor Forman loved being a public defender, but he quickly became frustrated with the lack of education and job training opportunities for his clients. So in 1997, along with David Domenici, he started the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, an alternative school for dropouts and youth who had previously been arrested. A decade later, in 2007, Maya Angelou School expanded and agreed to run the school inside D.C.’s juvenile prison. That school, which had long been an abysmal failure, has been transformed under the leadership of the Maya Angelou staff; the court monitor overseeing D.C.’s juvenile system called the turnaround “extraordinary.”

At Yale Law School, where has taught since 2011, Forman teaches Constitutional Law and a course called Race, Class, and Punishment. Last year he took his teaching behind prison walls, offering a seminar called Inside-Out Prison Exchange: Issues in Criminal Justice, which brought together, in the same classroom, 10 Yale Law students and 10 men incarcerated in a CT prison.

Professor Forman has written many law review articles, in addition to op-eds and essays for the New York Times, the Atlantic, the New Republic, the Nation, and the Washington Post. His first book is the critically acclaimed Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (2017) which explores how decisions made by black leaders, often with the best of intentions, contributed to disproportionately incarcerating black and brown people. A Washington Post bestseller, Locking Up Our Own was longlisted for the National Book Award and has been named a Best Book of the Year by numerous publications, including the New York Times, The Marshall Project, Publisher’s Weekly, and GQ Magazine. Reviewers have called the book “superb and shattering” (New York Times), “eloquent” and “sobering” (London Review of Books), and “moving, nuanced, and candid” (New York Review of Books). On Twitter, the New York Times book reviewer Jennifer Senior called Locking Up Our Own “the best book I’ve read this year.”

Professor Forman lives in New Haven with his wife Ify Nwokoye, a nurse practitioner and yoga instructor, and their 8-year old son Emeka, who loves sports, travel, and defying his parents. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Locking Up Our Own: Crime & Punishment in Black America

How did the United States come to lock up more of its citizens than any other nation on earth? What can we do to change that? Locking Up Our Own is a book so compelling that it was named one of the New York Times’ Top 10 books of 2017, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and became an instant Washington Post bestseller. In his memorable keynote, Forman share his life journey as a child of a civil rights leader, a public defender, a founder of a charter school for incarcerated teens, and a law professor. He outlines America’s criminal justice crisis with both data and human stories. He leaves the audience inspired and armed with concrete ideas for how they themselves can contribute to change.

Unequal Education & Mass Incarceration: Responding to the Twin Civil Rights Issues of our Times

Ending the School to Prison Pipeline

Struggling for Racial Justice in Challenging Times

Connect with James Forman Jr.